1958-2018: Cullman Regional Airport celebrates 60 years of service on Nov. 30

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The Cullman Regional Airport’s 60th anniversary celebration logo, designed with help from staff at Cullman Parks, Recreation, and Sports Tourism

CULLMAN – On Friday, Nov. 30, Cullman Regional Airport marks 60 years of service to the Cullman community. When the airport opened in 1958, the then 87.9-acre complex was already the culmination of more than 20 years of effort.

In 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, Cullman got a Works Progress Administration (WPA) contract for an airport, but the project was canceled in 1942, during World War II, before any construction began.  Another chance, after the war ended, was thwarted when the City could not come up with a local match for the federal grant that was offered.

During the 1940s, a few flights were coming in and out of Cullman County, landing in an improved pasture near Hanceville, and nearer Cullman in the early 1950s, at the farm of Joe Sapp.

By late 1955, the City had a state grant in hand, and formed the Airport Commission made up of Judge Murray Battles, farm airfield owner Sapp and Bruce Pylant.  Multiple sites around the area were surveyed before ground was broken in Vinemont on April 1, 1956.

Two and a half years later, on Sunday, Nov. 30, 1958, the airport was officially opened and named Folsom Field, in honor of then Gov. Jim Folsom.  Folsom and his wife Jamelle Folsom attended the ceremony, along with the airport commissioners, Cullman Mayor J.W. Arnold, Alabama National Guard Adjutant Gen. James Berry, Alabama Aeronautics Board Chairman Asa Rountree, Rev. John Waller, James Moody, Neil Metcalf, Dan Mobley, George Ponder and others.  Thousands of Cullman County residents attended the event, along with pilots who flew in from all around the region. At its opening, the facility had a 4,500-foot north-south paved runway and a 2,800-foot east-west runway that was originally dirt but paved a short time later.

Today, Cullman Regional Airport is jointly operated by the City of Cullman and Cullman County.  More than 80 aircraft are based at the facility that boasts a single 5,500-foot runway and parallel taxiway.  The airport serves local businesses’ personnel and cargo transport needs, and hosts the Wallace State Community College Aviation program, Skydive Alabama, Air Evac Lifeteam, and aviation programs of Alabama State Troopers and the Cullman Police Department.  The facility even has its own restaurant, The Prop Diner, open for breakfast and lunch Thursdays through Sundays.

While the airport is not intended for use by commercial jetliners, its runway and apron will support fairly heavy aircraft, and a current project to improve the taxiway will give all the facility’s paved surfaces the same capabilities.

Airport General Manager Ben Harrison has worked at the airport for six years and was promoted to general manager in 2014.  Earlier this year, he was selected to serve a three-year term on the National Air Transportation Association’s (NATA’s) Airport Business Committee.  

In a discussion earlier this year, he told The Tribune:  “We are an economic development driver for the city of Cullman and for all of Cullman County.  We don’t do economic development, but we host the companies that are coming in, that are doing economic development here.  I would say, pretty much all the large industry, at some point in time, always has someone coming into the airport several times per year, whether it be executives, whether it be air cargo that they need, whether it be people coming in to do business with them.  So, constantly, we have someone coming in that deals with all the local major suppliers.”

On Thursday, Harrison said of the airport’s anniversary, “We are excited to be able to hit this milestone.  None of this would be possible without the multiple individuals who had the foresight to see the area needed an airport for growth.  Over the years, countless people have helped this airport grow and maintain a great facility that supports business and industry along with the private flying community.

“It is up to us to keep the airport growing for the next 60 years.  We could not do this without the support of the city council, county commission, airport board, economic development offices, ALDOT aeronautics, and the FAA- also, all of the city and county departments who help support us.”

For more on the Cullman Regional Airport, visit www.cullmanregionalairport.org.

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